02 Apr Daydreaming of South America
In case you missed my InstaStories, last week I announced what seemed, quite unexpectantly that Darren and I are planning to sell everything and travel South America, with the kids. I am sure to many of you, the news seemed to come out of nowhere but to those close and dear, you KNOW how long this has been a dream.
About 3 years ago, Darren and I were binge-watching International House Hunters – it’s a favourite of ours – when we saw an episode based in South America. It didn’t take long for us to start Googling the cost of living, places to stay and whether it was possible for us to make a move, but as exciting as it was, Monday came knocking and along with the weekend, our South American dream had quickly come to an end.
Over the last few months, several things have lead us to making the decision to pack our bags and go travel. In September, our 2-year lease ends and we’ll have just over a year until Axl starts Grade R, giving us some time to travel South America and decide if being Digital Nomads suits our family.
They way that I see it is, if we don’t go now, we probably never will, and we’ll always be left wondering about the what ifs. Once the kids start school, we’re stuck only travelling during school holidays or waiting until they finish school. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll be back in time for Axl to start school – nothing gained, nothing lost. If it does work and we love travelling, we’ll keep at it and will have had a chance to gauge what will work best for the kids and their education.
I haven’t spoken about it, but last year was shit for several reasons. There were some pretty low-lows which included almost losing my best friend, and husband. Do you know how many times we were told Darren MIGHT have cancer? Three. Fucken. Times. All in different parts of his body.
The week leading up to his stomach scans, I kept finding myself crying hysterically at stupid little things; have I taken enough photos of him with the kids, how will I teach them everything they need to know, how will I manage on my own, will I ever laugh again, how will we get through treatment, how is he going to handle it, how do you tell a 3-year old, we should have gone to the doctor earlier, taken it more seriously, maybe gotten a second or third opinion. But mostle, we should have done more.
This experience really put things into perspective for me. So, when the scans came back clear, I swore I’d make sure that no matter how many or how few days we have together, I am going to embrace it – embrace us.
Earlier this year, D and I started talking about South America again and the more we chatted it over, the harder it was to fight the urge to pack up and go. We then found out that South African passport holders can enter most South American countries visa-free for 90 days at a time and knowing that emigration isn’t for us, we started playing around with the idea of country hoping before stumbling upon a digital nomad community. Before long, we were subscribed to forums, I had followed and connected with fellow digital nomads across the globe and had even started a Pinterest board with places to visit in South America.
If you know a little about Darren and me, and how we first started dating, you’ll know that the Steve Jobs biography holds a very special place in my heart. One of my favourite philosophies of his is that you can only connect the dots looking back. I always find myself coming back to this, especially when I realize that at a certain time in my life, something seemed absurd, uncomfortable or challenging, but that later on, it helped me get to a place I needed to be. This reaffirms that no matter what you’re facing today, you’re right where you should be.
Looking back on my life, there are many moments that I can describe as a shit show but so much of it has prepared me for this adventure:
My dad is a sub-contractor. The problem is, like me, my dad can’t half-ass anything and because he is so good at it, he was often transferred to problematic jobs that were behind, so that he could do damage control, bring things up to speed and hand over an exceedingly good project. This meant that we travelled a lot. In addition, my parents loved going away for weekends at a time where we’d explore new parts of the country. They were never the sort of parents that needed kid-free weekends, instead they embraced having me along for the ride and took me everywhere – something I try doing as a parent.
We have also had to start over from nothing – many times. Each time we moved, I started at a new school, my parents made a home out of a house (and even a caravan), and together we would go through the motions. We moved to Botswana, lived in a caravan for 9 months, then moved into a park-home where we stayed until we were chased out the country and lived in a caravan in the yard of a family member. Shortly after, we found a new house, and started again, until a couple years later, we moved to PE and did it all over again. And then my parents got divorced, and I moved to Jo’burg and then back to PE… and then all our stuff was repocessed and my dad and I learnt that material possessions distract from building meaningful relationships. And then I met Darren, and we started our life together, where we started again and again… Starting over with nothing does not scare me. If anything, it’s the one thing I KNOW how to do.
So, what if being a digital nomad sucks and we fail? Cool, we’ll explore South America for a bit and come back home where we’ll begin again. It’s okay to fail, to start over, to live on the edge and risk it all for a dream.
There is so much more that I want to say on this but ultimately, Darren and I had kids young so that we could always travel with them. We were those people who said, “kids first, travel later.” And now I have my kids, and there’s this piece of me that’s already exploring and living in Chile, waiting for the rest of me to arrive in September.
I also promised to answer some of your questions;
What is our plan?
Our plan is to leave for Chile in September, where we will stay for 3 months. We are hoping to move each month to explore a new part of the country, and at the end of our 90-days, we’ll move onto Argentina, Brazil and Peru to do the same. The idea is that we’ll travel up north, as it becomes cooler because neither of us think we’ll survive summer in Brazil.
What about work?
We will continue to work for our America-based company and maintain our relationships with our South African clients through Dr. Design. That is the beauty of what we do – we can take our work wherever we go, so why choose the same damn office day in and day out?
Will I continue to blog?
I do not know. Ultimately, we will be living out of suitcases for a minimum of a year, if not longer, so I am minimizing my makeup collection (by selling it over here), and I don’t really want to try re-establishing myself in a new country as a blogger. I also don’t want to spend my time cooped up behind a screen, when I could be exploring the streets of Chile, you know? I love documenting our lives, so I might just focus on that and blog occasionally when I have the chance and focus more on Instagram so that we can share snaps of our travels and keep our families updated. I have gotten a lot of requests to share saving tips, and more travel-orientated posts, especially from a parent’s perspective, as I guess a lot of people are under the impression that travelling with kids is a complete nightmare.
Am I learning Spanish?
Yes, I signed up for a course almost immediately and spend at least 30 minutes each day, learning the language. It’s been a lot of fun and I am thoroughly enjoying it!
What about Sheever?
My mom has recently moved to PE, and has a black-doo of her own, so Sheever will be staying with her while we’re travelling. This has been one of the hardest things to consider but I feel more comfortable knowing she’ll be with family who is just as crazy about dogs as we are (if not more.)
What about school?
Axl is due to start grade R in 2020, so it gives us some time to figure out whether we like being digital nomads, or not. If we don’t, we’ll be back in time for him to start school with all the other kids. If we do like it, we’ll consider home-schooling or sending him to an international school.
What about money?
As soon as we made the decision to do this, we started cutting back and putting money in a savings account. We are selling absolutely everything – including my makeup, which you can shop here – so that when we leave, we only have our bags to worry about.
I think that covers just about everything. The next few months are going to be tough, mainly because my mind and heart is already in Chile, while I am sitting here sifting through the admin of making it happen. I also just want to thank every single person who sent an encouraging and supportive message, and to those who have bought our books, electronics, baby stuff and makeup to fund our dream.
I am the blogger behind By Megan Kelly, mom of two boys, named Axl (5-years old) and Eli (1-year old), and local business owner of Dr. Design. I live on copious amounts of coffee, work as a community manager and digital marketer, and spend my free time listening to podcasts and bible journalling. I also enjoy baking fresh treats for my family, exploring our local city, and looking for new family-friendly places for our kids to enjoy. On the weekends, you’ll likely find me shouting at the soccer and showing my support for Tottenham, while pretending to know what I am doing in the Fantasy League. I can be bribed with chocolate and will never admit to having too much makeup – although, I probably do.